JB crackdown: Heads to roll in Malawi gov’t

There is tension and uncertainty to many top government officials after President Joyce Banda cracked the whip that there should no sacred cows in rooting out corruption and abuse of office in all sectors of the economy, as Nyasa Times understands that heads will roll at Capital Hill.

Banda kick-started the crackdown on corruption and abuses of public resources when she took over government in April 2012 after her administration inherited a lot of rot from the DPP government. The results of the fiscal action are said to be yielding now with spate of arrests on suspected looters.

It has been learnt that President Banda announced to the major donors of Malawi her crackdown and  that British government even offered to fund the capacity building for the work three months ago.

Weeks after she took over the presidency, President Banda told Parliament  in a State of the Nation Address 18th May 2012 that “there have been cases of fraud, embezzlement and misprocurement in several ministries, departments and statutory corporations” during the late Bingu wa Mutharika regime.

Pres. Banda: There will be no shielding of anybody

Pres. Banda: There will be no shielding of anybody

She asked all Principal Secretaries, Chief Executives and all public officers who were aware of instances of fraud, embezzlement and misprocurement involving public funds in their institutions or that came to their knowledge, to bring those matters to her attention.

“That was the kick start of the process to root out self-enrichment in public service,” pointed out  a top government official.

President Banda noted when she came to power , she found out that under the previous regime, there were serious challenges with procurement system where some suppliers connive with government officials to inflate prices, duplicate payments and deliberately fail to deliver goods and services even when payment has been made.

She pledged in parliament: “We will curb excesses in government procurement, and we will stamp out corruption. We will redirect government efforts in monitoring and surveillance system to this sector. We will strengthen governance and accountability institutions such as the Anti-Corruption Bureau and the Auditor General. The culture of officials ‘mending their roofs’ at the expense of the public purse must be eliminated. “

Nyasa Times has established that when the looting was at its peak in the previous regime, the  DPP government was issuing two Audit reports   for the same year, one for hoodwinking the donors and the  other was genuine but kept under wraps.

The financial abuses triggered  protests by cross section of activists including university students which also led to the murder of University of Malawi student Robert Chasowa for laying bare some of bootleg deals through a newsletter, some of the articles which were being published on Nyasa Times.

Banda, who faces election next year and  has won acclaim in the West for austerity measures and gestures to bolster the economy of the impoverished country,  said  her administration continued to implement reforms aimed at enhancing accountability, transparency and efficiency in public service delivery.

The Malawi leader recently briefed members of the influential quasi-religious grouping,Public Affairs Committee (PAC), her efforts in curbing corruption in Government.

She said her government introduced “stringent monitoring mechanism of resources” in all departments.

“This includes the implementation of the Integrated Finance Management Information System, evaluation and monitoring of procurement and award of tenders and improved Automated Tax Administration,” Banda informed the PAC delegation.

President Banda also introduced Ministerial Delivery Meetings to have first-hand information on the progress and challenges the public service is facing.

Through the Ministerial Delivery Meetings a lot of issues bordering on corruption and abuse were exposed, corrected and results of some of them are manifesting today with the arrest of fraudsters.

The President said she directed the Auditor General to build capacity in his department by filling up all vacancies with professional staff and to upgrade the information technology in his department to prevent abuse and interference by those officials have been sacked.

She also pointed out that the Ministry of Finance is overhauling the payment system and tracking and sealing loopholes for fraud and abuse.

This year’s Corruption Perception Index (CPI) report puts Malawi on number 88 out of 176 territories, representing a 12-step improvement from last year’s report.

Official corruption and organized fraud had become “entrenched in the past years” in Malawi, the president’s office said in a statement   after budget director Paul Mphwiyo was shot and severely wounded in an attack that was apparently related to his efforts to fight corruption.

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